116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MINNEAPOLIS — From a literal standpoint, Iowa’s 13-10 win over Minnesota was at a cold and windy Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
But metaphorically, it might as well have been in Champaign, Ill., or even the Indianapolis suburbs, considering how much closer Iowa is on the road to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.
Iowa’s win over the Golden Gophers (7-4, 4-4) in the final minute, along with Illinois’ 19-17 loss in the final seconds to No. 3 Michigan, moves the Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3) one victory away from repeating as Big Ten West champions.
“It was a really good team win for us,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa kicker Drew Stevens, a true freshman, nailed a 21-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining to ensure the victory.
A Jack Campbell interception returned to Minnesota 45-yard line set up the game-winning drive. It was close to a pick-six, but the officials thought he stepped out of bounds and blew the play dead.
Iowa players think otherwise.
“I was right behind him,” safety Kaevon Merriweather said. “He didn’t step out.”
Whether Campbell stayed in bounds quickly became a moot point.
The first play of the game-winning drive was a Spencer Petras 33-yard completion to tight end Luke Lachey.
“After I caught it, all I was focused on was trying to get as many yards as I could and holding onto the ball,” Lachey said. “I knew at that point, we were probably in field goal range.”
From there, Iowa simply needed to run the ball and force Minnesota to use up its timeouts.
Minnesota was on the precipice of breaking the 10-10 stalemate earlier in the fourth quarter. The Gophers had a 16-play, 88-yard drive that lasted almost nine minutes and reached the red zone.
But a Mohamed Ibrahim fumble forced by Campbell and recovered by Deontae Craig halted the drive.
It was a rare miscue from a running back who set the Huntington Bank Stadium record with 263 rushing yards.
Iowa, the school nicknamed “Tight End U,” characteristically turned to its tight ends for much of the production Saturday.
Iowa star Sam LaPorta, an All-America candidate, had four receptions on four targets for 95 yards before leaving the game with an injury. The severity of the injury is unclear at this point.
Lachey finished the evening with five receptions on six targets for 77 yards, including the key reception on the game-winning drive.
“It was awesome to see Luke step up like he did,” Petras said. “Obviously Luke didn’t flinch. … Luke’s a really, really good player, and wouldn’t expect anything less, but still really cool to see.”
Addison Ostrenga, a true freshman from Sun Prairie, Wis., chipped in as well with his first career completion.
No other Iowa receiver had more than 21 yards.
When Petras threw to tight ends, he was 10-of-11. The rest of the time, he was 5-of-13.
Minnesota’s offense, meanwhile, put up some good numbers on paper, particularly on the ground, but it did not always translate to points.
Ibrahim averaged 6.7 yards per carry; it was the 24th game in his career with at least 100 rushing yards, a program record.
The Gophers had 399 total yards, 312 of which came on the ground.
“Defensively, certainly not happy about the statistics and giving up as much yardage on the ground as we did,” Ferentz said.
But it only translated to 10 points.
One of the Gophers’ longest drives of the day — 11 plays for 73 yards late in the first half — ended with a missed 34-yard field goal.
A 76-yard Gopher drive in the second half resulted in only three points.
"Bend, don’t break,“ linebacker Seth Benson said.
That motto was on display Saturday.
“They bent — (the Gophers) were running the ball great — but they never broke and came up with two huge turnovers that won us the game,” Petras said.
Iowa won its 14th consecutive game in the month of November.
“November football — it’s whatever it takes to get something done,” Ferentz said. “Took the full 60 today for sure.”
Saturday’s win marked the eighth consecutive time that Iowa brought home the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. Minnesota has not beaten Iowa since 2014 although the Gophers still have a 62-52-2 lead in the all-time series.
Ahead of the drive that ended with the Campbell interception, the speakers at Huntington Bank Stadium blared Pitbull’s hit song with Kesha, “Timber.”
“It’s going down,” the lyrics rang through the speakers as those who were left in a half-full student section energetically sang along. “I’m yelling timber.”
Little did those Minnesota students know that the lyrics they were singing along to were describing what was about to happen to Minnesota’s odds of winning. They were about to go down, or one could say timber.
Now, Iowa will have a chance to play for a Big Ten West title next week.
“You don’t get the opportunity all the time,” Merriweather said. “It’s an incredible opportunity, incredible chance that we have in front of us for sure.”
The Hawkeyes have won the last seven games against the Cornhuskers. If Iowa defeats Nebraska again this year, it will join Wisconsin in 2016 and 2017 as the only teams to repeat as Big Ten West champions.
“We got a lot to play for now, and that starts tomorrow,” Benson said. “We’re really excited to get back to work.”